Do formal rules that aim to limit government growth by some formula, codified in constitutions or statues, really work?
It depends, says Matthew Mitchell of the Mercatus Institute. Mitchell looked at 30-plus years of state Tax and Expenditure (TEL) laws and found several characteristics of TELs that have succeeded in controlling government growth. “These include,” he writes, “constitutional (as opposed to statutory) codification, a focus on spending rather than on revenue, a provision that automatically and immediately refunds surpluses, and—of particular importance—a provision that requires either a supermajority vote or a public vote for override.”
Mitchell’s paper is “T.E.L. It Like It Is: Do State Tax and Expenditure Limits Actually Limit Spending?” published by the Mercatus Institute, December 10, 2010.